9 Pairs of High Heels That Shaped History

Hilary George-Parkin
PHOTO:

 Arthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour Style

While it may seem like every season brings a new breed of high heels—block-heel mules, teetering satin pumps, toothpick-thin stilettos—the history of heel heights can be traced back to at least the 15th century, when Persian men wore them on horseback, enabling them to get a better footing on the stirrups.

They came in and out of fashion throughout the intervening decades, worn by both men and women, and took a wide variety of forms (some, like the Venetian chopines, towering overshoes that let women clomp through muddy streets without dirtying their dresses, barely recognizable as heels at all). Even in the past century, though, heels have come a long way, advancing from the narrow lace-up boots of the Edwardian era to the avant-garde creations we see on the runway today.

Below, take a trip back through time with nine of the most important moments in recent high-heel history.

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